Soccer

It’s beginning to look like Christmas

  • Remember me: Richarlison celebrates scoring against Newcastle United on Wednesday. The Brazilian forward faces his former club Watford on Monday

(Photograph by Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

The lights have gone up on houses, trees are being decorated, presents are being bought (don’t worry fellas there’s still 17 days until Christmas Eve!) and unlike taxis on Front Street on Friday and Saturday nights, Premier League fixtures continue to come thick and fast.

While Manchester City fans won’t be able to help feeling like all their Christmases keep coming at once as they continue to lead the way in the standings, Southampton took on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, sacking Mark Hughes after just eight months in charge, gifting him the unwanted statistic of being the first Premier League manager to be sacked twice in one year ... Bah humbug!

New manager Ralph Hasenhüttl will be aiming to restore some much needed festive cheer tomorrow with a win over fellow strugglers Cardiff City, while there is also the prospect of a cracker at Stamford Bridge in the late kick off as Chelsea host Pep Guardiola’s league leaders.

SATURDAY

Bournemouth v Liverpool 8.30am

Liverpool will aim to go top of the table by winning at Bournemouth — and then hope for a favour from Chelsea later on.

Jürgen Klopp’s side remain unbeaten in the league, sitting just two points behind pacesetters City. However, it will not be easy for Klopp’s side at Bournemouth, who are riding high in seventh position. Prediction 1-2

Burnley v Brighton & Hove Albion 11am

Another set of fans who will be forgiven for being void of festive hope and spirit are Burnley supporters.

Three successive defeats has seen Burnley slump to second from bottom in the table on nine points, only remaining above basement-boys Fulham on goal difference alone.

Brighton will be buoyed by a 3-1 derby-day success over Crystal Palace in midweek, but they lost key men in the process with Shane Duffy receiving his marching orders for a headbutt on Patrick van Aanholt, and leading scorer Glenn Murray forced off with a shoulder injury. Prediction 1-1

Manchester United v

Fulham 11am

Much like the famous British soap opera Coronation Street filmed just down the road from Old Trafford, Manchester United’s season has been every bit as turbulent, dramatic and entertaining to follow this season.

The latest trend for José Mourinho’s misfiring United side is a propensity to draw matches, with their latest three Premier League outings ending all-square as they find themselves in a pack of eight clubs whose main target will be Europa League qualification. United should be favoured. Prediction 2-0

Arsenal v Huddersfield Town 11am

Arsenal are clinging on to their lengthy unbeaten run which now stands at 20 matches — and it should not come under any immediate danger at the Emirates against Huddersfield Town.

Unai Emery’s resurgent side have not lost in any competition since their opening two games of the season against City and Chelsea, and they got through two huge matches against Tottenham Hotspur and United in the last seven days with a 4-2 home win and 2-2 away draw.

Huddersfield meanwhile have been lacking bite recently and are just one point above the relegation zone. Prediction 3-0

Cardiff City v Southampton 11am

Ralph Hasenhüttl takes charge of Southampton for the first time against a Cardiff side who have won three of their last four home games.

The former RB Leipzig manager has only had two days to work with his players and that may not be enough to engineer a rapid turnaround in form against Cardiff, who increasingly look as though their fight against relegation will be based upon winning matches at home. Prediction 1-1

West Ham v Crystal Palace 11am

West Ham come into tomorrow’s fixture against Crystal Palace on the back of a decent run of form that has seen them lose one of their last five and win two in the last week alone.

Palace are six points back having picked up just one win in their last ten games in all competitions. Prediction 1-1.

Chelsea v Manchester City

1.30pm

After a promising start to the season, Chelsea have started to look rather more vulnerable in the last month, winning only one of their last four domestic games, including suffering a shock 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday.

Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard has scored in six of the last eight meetings between these clubs but with the possible return of Sergio Agüero from injury I can see City holding the slight advantage. Prediction 2-1

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur 3.45pm

Only twice this term at the King Power Stadium, and twice in their last 12 matches anywhere, have Leicester tasted defeat. They are proving very resilient at the back and conceded only two goals in their latest six fixtures.

Tottenham bounced back well from their disappointing North London derby defeat to Arsenal with a comfortable 3-1 success at home to Southampton, keeping their slim title challenge alive. Prediction 1-2

SUNDAY

Newcastle United v Wolverhampton Wanderers 12pm

Newcastle have shown some improved form recently, losing just one of their last six games.

Wolves secured an impressive win over Chelsea last time out to seal their first league win since the beginning of October.

On paper there is not much to separate the sides with but having beaten one of the strongest sides in the league Nuno’s men should head north full of confidence in what could prove an intriguing battle. Prediction 1-1

MONDAY

Everton v Watford 4pm

Everton have only taken a point from their last two matches following up a 1-0 Merseyside defeat to bitter rivals Liverpool in the most disastrous of fashions with a disappointing 1-1 draw with Newcastle United in a game which they largely dominated.

Their opponents also come into the encounter in poor form having just a point from their last five matches, with three successive defeats in the process.

The most intriguing point of the match will see former Watford manager Marco Silva and forward Richarlison meet their former club for the first time in the league. Prediction 2-1